Mama Mikki--A Warrior for Children

by Betty Halliburton

With wings like an eagle, Mikki Halstead mounts up as she spreads her arms, waves her hands and slowly moves her fingers together to form the word Jesus in American sign language.

"Mama Mikki" – as she is affectionately called by the dozens of children who make up the Franklinaires, is focused on every move during their performance as well as every child she is directing.

"I feel like God has given me a special insight," she said. "Every child is different. They have gifts you wouldn’t think they’d have at that age."

Halstead, 43, has been working with the Franklinaires, a gospel-drama choir from Franklin Elementary School in Elyria, Ohio since the fall of 1998. During the day, Halstead spends a lot of time and energy interacting with students in the school’s Family Resource Center where she is a parent-student liaison. She and her husband who is called "Papa Joe" has three children, Joseph, 11, Breana, 12, and Charnae, 7.

Practically every child at Franklin knows "Mama Mikki" and loves to see her walking down the halls of the school. But sometimes she must use a wheelchair or a cane.

In 1992, Halstead was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, a rare and sometimes fatal disease that causes lesions on the organs. Her strength and trust in the Lord has kept her on the battlefield despite being in the hospital over five times since January.

"People at the hospital are just amazed when they see me coming. I guess I have to just show them that it is God who is holding me up. He is in control," she said from her hospital bed while she was undergoing a series of tests recently.

Everyone who meets her is also amazed at her dedication to children.

As a child, Halstead had been called ugly, stupid and was told that she would never amount to anything. "I always liked to sing so I knew that no matter what they said that was one thing that I could do."

And God has used her childhood experiences and her experiences in the armed services to draft an army of young people who in many cases has been labeled unruly or troublemakers. "Just because somebody said they were bad that doesn’t stop me from talking to them." She says with tears in her eyes.

And with every breath "Mama Mikki" is showing her kids that if they wait upon the Lord they shall renew their strength and they too can mount up with wings as eagles!

"I hope to leave with children a sense of self-worth, a sense of pride, a sense of can-do-it-ness, a sense that if they’re in a bad environment, they don’t have to be a product of that environment, they can bring themselves up out of that."

Despite a troubled childhood, "Mama Mikki" was able to pull herself out of a bad environment. She has received several awards on the local and county levels throughout the year, but humbly admits. "It’s not me, it’s the Christ in me and He deserves all of the glory and praise."C